Sunday, March 18, 2007

This just in from the social front

Item 1: At an IHOP in Grandview, Mo., a female patron kissed her partner and lover, one of the three other women in the booth. She later described it as “a kiss I would share with my uncle.” But other guests complained and the manager told the women to leave, explaining that he ran a family restaurant. The matter was spotlighted—sympathetically—in a popular column of The Kansas City Star, the major daily of a notoriously conservative state.

Item 2: A woman breastfeeding her baby inside Johnny’s Barbecue in Cullman, Ala., alleges that an employee threw a dirty towel over the baby’s head to hide the sight. Management said the towels were clean and were merely offered, and employees have alleged that the woman’s breast was in clear view. The outraged patron organized a protest of nursing mothers, but only three showed, according to local media. There was no indication of how many might have been scared away by the customers who filled the lot to demonstrate their support of the restaurant’s actions.

Item 3: Several months ago, an entry in this space noted that former longtime Church’s president Hala Moddelmog had been appointed chief executive of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a group that fights breast cancer. A reader recently sent a note chastising me for not pointing out that the Foundation also supports abortion through funding of Planned Parenthood, an allegation that I can’t say is true or untrue. But I didn’t allow the comment to be posted because the writer went on to assert that supporting Planned Parenthood is the same as supporting abortion, and that encourages the rape of minors by adult men working in restaurants. It was not the mad raving of a yahoo writing from a cabin in Idaho.

As even the cave-dwelling neighbors of Osama Bin Laden are no doubt aware, we’re in the midst of a presidential election that’s likely to be a doozy. The industry fully expects the yapping by the various candidates to focus attention on issues vehemently opposed by the trade, like health-insurance mandates, wage increases or employee benefits like paid sick leave. But the preening and strutting for votes this time around is likely to touch on social matters that are hotter than Mike Tyson’s temper, from family values to abortion to gay marriage. And as the modern-day town square, restaurants will often be the stages for those heightened passions. Indeed, as these three examples suggest, the foodservice business is already serving as a battleground.

Which brings me to a few key questions, and the real reason for this entry: So what’s your policy on dining-room breastfeeding (if your state has even left that as an option)? How about public displays of affection by same-sex couples? And how are you going to react when employees, customers or neighbors don’t like the charities your operation supports (the Komen Foundation is one of the industry’s most widely championed groups, as my earlier entry noted)? For that matter, how do your frontline employees feel about these issues, and how are you going to handle the clash between their attitudes and yours, or theirs and customers?

I certainly don’t profess to know your business. But it seems to me that having the answers to those and other socially explosive questions now may be a whole lot better than having to come up with something when one of my colleagues in the media is thrusting a microphone in your face, asking for clarification for the local 6 o’clock evening news.

It’s not a task I envy you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I've been working in food service for awhile and people will do anything anywhere. I actually work in both my jobs with bosses who are homosexual, they by all means do not display any affection to their significant other but I'm sure it would not be an issue if one of customers did it. Also you should only breastfeed in public if you have a blanket to cover yourself up. Breast are still private parts but breastfeeding is natural and in most other contries where women only breastfeed they do anywhere and everywhere. You have to feed your baby! But here in America people get so offended by such little things so whoever is getting offended needs to get over it.

March 19, 2007 at 9:35 AM  
Anonymous davelory said...

I don't know what the "policy' is in our state, but a woman's breast-milk is proven to be the best thing for a baby, is completely natural, but should be discreet. A blanket is perfectly acceptable in my opinion.

In terms of public displays of affection, again, discretion, gay or straight, is key. A smooch here or there, great. A make-out session, not cool. This is only an issue due to the gay component.

Lastly, in terms of charities, companies, as I have writen before, need to do more due diligence on the organizations they support, but also support those organizations they feel is within their principles. If their guests or staff don't like who they support, they need to be okay with that or go someplace else. Businesses such as restaurants almost always give back to the community, and not everyone will be happy in the way they do it.

February 27, 2008 at 9:08 AM  

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